Tina's mom had a phrase that she loved to say, and she said it often. "Everyone Matters" could be heard from her at any time, in any circumstance. But it was not just a phrase to her. She lived it out in her daily life, everyday.
Join in today as Tina takes this phrase and applies it to her own understanding of what this could really look like, symbolically, and tangibly.
In a twist of experiences, Tina talks about puzzles, the planet's population, and white wooden crosses... and how they all keep driving home this phrase and the truth behind it...
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Everyone Matters – Not Just a Phrase
Anyone who knew my mama, knows she had a phrase that she loved to say… but it was not just a phrase to her – it was not just lip service. It was a belief that she stood by, and lived out, to serve others. This phrase was so important to her and has become the backbone of what we aim to offer at our counselling agency, Life’s Seasons, and it is what I want to focus on today.
“Everyone Matters” she’d reiterate at staff meetings, annual general meetings, in private conversations, at the supper table. It would flow out of her heart and straight past her lips the same as if she was saying please, or thank you, or hello. It was as common to hear her say this, as it was to see her hands wrapped around a coffee mug.
And as I sat with my hands wrapped around a warm cup of coffee the other day, my mind drifted to a picture in my head. I saw a puzzle. Do any of y’all like to do puzzles? If you do, or if you have any OCD tendencies, which I do, I’m sure you can relate to me painting an image of getting to the end of a puzzle, just to find that one piece is missing. Oh, the agony. The frustration and anger even, in knowing that you have spent so much time and effort to complete something that is just not complete.
What’s the first thing we do in this situation? We look on the floor, don’t we? We get down on our hands and knees and check around the legs of the table and under ANYTHING that might be nearby. We move furniture that hasn’t been moved in 15 years, just to see if that piece may have gotten stuck under there somehow. We turn over the box that the puzzle came in, hoping for a piece to magically appear and fall out before us. And let’s be honest, we probably do this 4 times before we admit that the missing piece is just not in there.
We ask if anyone else in the house has seen the piece. And then we don’t believe them and ask them to lift their feet like they might be hiding it just to watch us go insane. And when we realize they are not holding it hostage, we try to get them to help us look too. As if there is somewhere we haven’t already looked. Four times.
It really does drive us crazy to know that our puzzle was so close to being complete, but for one piece.
How many of you would decide to focus on the time and effort you’ve already put in, and frame it anyways for displaying on the wall? I couldn’t do it. I don’t know who could. I would just have a constant reminder that it was almost complete… but for one piece.
And I said I couldn’t do it… Until thinking through these thoughts that I’m going to share with you today. I am now working on a puzzle that will purposefully be missing one piece, and then I’m going to frame it and hang it on the wall. And this is why:
Because everyone matters. And I want to be reminded of that. I need to be reminded of that. Because somehow our world has become a place where we would refuse to hang a puzzle with one missing piece, but we are not concerned with our neighbor, or the person who passed our coffee out the drive through window this morning. We aren’t spending time looking for those who have slipped off the puzzle table and gotten lost under furniture that hasn’t moved in 15 years.
I know that’s not even a great analogy, but people are literally missing in this world, and no one is looking for them. Or only a few are looking for them. And not nearly as diligently as if they were a missing puzzle piece.
And I don’t just mean physically missing, but they have pulled back from their daily routines, shrunk into the shadows, and made themselves as little as possible to try not to be seen in their attempt to disappear or at least isolate. Their suffering has them missing out on the life they deserve. If they are missing out on life, they need to be classed as a missing piece in our lives and we need to look for them, like we are not complete without them. Like we can’t put our puzzle on the wall without them.
Because this world is a puzzle. And we are pieces.
What if we could look at this world like a 7-billion-piece puzzle? I know that’s a lot. And on our own it really is too much. But we have 7 billion people who can be working on it with us. To see it come together as complete.
We need to become just as frantic for our neighborhood pieces, as we would for our puzzles on our dining room tables.
We need to look at our communities as something we are working on with the goal of framing and exhibiting one day. Knowing we won’t feel right presenting something that has a piece missing.
And this may be all well and good as an illustration, but what does this look like as a tangible example? Because let’s face it, 7 billion people are too many to look for and take care of.
Well, how do you put your puzzles together? I do mine one piece at a time. Because even out of 1000 or 5000, that’s an overwhelming amount to reckon with. And I know that I will never find the piece I am looking for when I scan the whole lot. I have to purposefully look at the piece right in front of me at any given moment.
That’s how we do a 7-billion-piece puzzle too. We purposefully look at the piece in front of us at any given moment and we say, “you, you are the one I am focusing on right now”. As they ring through your groceries, as they hold open a door for you, as they place your lunch order down on the table in front of you, as they tell you exactly why your car is making that noise, and as they ask you how your day was while eating supper.
It’s about seeing the person in front of you in that space and time and saying, “you are the one. You are my 1 in 7 billion, and you matter. Because everyone matters and I’ll prove it by making you the one, right now”.
You know, some people who do puzzles like to do the edges first. They look for all the outside pieces and they assemble those ones first. Some like to take one area and focus on that first and build out from there. They zone in on the face, or the boat, or the yellow flower.
Now you might have an opinion as to whether they are right or wrong, but I’m wondering, as we look at this world as a puzzle, what if we need both of those tactics. What if we all focused on different sections, to ensure it was all getting worked on, and we worked away until we joined up where the last person got to?
That would mean that I am not wrong if my focus was not the same as yours. That would mean that you are not wrong if you think something else in this world is really important... and it just doesn’t seem as important to me.
There are an awful lot of pieces right now that are not just lost, but they have been pushed aside and scattered away because they are not a piece that someone else sees as important, or worth their focus.
Some people have decided that they are working on a puzzle that will put together a picture that they want to see. They want to put pieces down next to each other until they see their agenda come into focus. And if you don’t have the right shape or the right coloring on you to make their picture appear, they don’t care if you fall off the table and go missing at all.
And this is such a shame. These people have either lost sight of, or never understood that this is a 7-billion-piece puzzle and no matter what they are focused on, no matter what they have decided to be the most important part, this puzzle will not be complete if we don’t accept that we need ALL the pieces. We need to all come together and figure out how to fit into our place… even if you don’t agree with the piece that fits in next to you – that is their spot, and without them there, we are incomplete.
Maybe you don’t like puzzles. You don’t enjoy looking for pieces to see where they fit for a picture to come together. That’s ok. All I ask is that you help keep an eye out for any that might fall off the table.
Point them out when you see them off on their own. Point them out to someone who can reach out and pick them up. That is still being a part of this huge puzzle. That is still you realizing that all the pieces matter and that it will take every one of them to complete our picture.
I do want to take a minute though, to speak to you, the one who thinks your piece doesn’t matter. You think your piece is so small that no one will even notice if you go missing. You think that there is no way that anyone would care at all if you hid away or disappeared. You can’t imagine that there would even be a space that you fit into, and certainly not one with enough significance to call this world incomplete without you.
Listen to me very carefully. I know that 7 billion sounds like a lot. I know that you do not see any great significance in being 1 in 7 billion. But this is the truth, that 1 in 7 billion?
YOU ARE THE 1.
You are the 1 in 7 billion that will make this picture incomplete without you. You matter that much. My mom said so. And I believed her. I still do. I know that you matter that much. You are the 1 in 7 billion right now that I am talking to. And I need you to know that whether we have ever met or ever will, YOU are the 1 right now – that I am smiling at, holding a door open for, and inviting back to a life that you have always deserved to have.
I don’t care what anyone else has ever thought about you and your importance in this puzzle being completed, because if they didn’t know or let you know how valuable you were, they were wrong.
I need you in my puzzle. It is not complete without you. There is a spot that only you fit in. And that spot that is just for your shape with your edges, your coloring, and your design, is waiting for you. No one else can have it… even if they try. That spot will only hold you and it’s been waiting for you to be found. You matter that much.
I’m going to keep working on my puzzle and then I’m going to frame it and display it with one piece missing. And that’s what I want to see in my mind every time I meet someone. I’m going to imagine that spot as theirs, so I can treat them like I’ve been frantically looking for them, and now they are found.
Would you consider doing that with me? Yes, actually putting together a puzzle with one piece missing and displaying somewhere that would remind you how to treat every person you encounter that day. One at a time. Just the one right in front of you at that moment.
Because at that moment they are all that matters to you. And why? Because everyone matters, and that is not just a phrase.
I want to wrap up today by telling you about something that I see every day on my way to work, and every evening again on my way home. It’s a little white cross on the side of the road.
I know that this cross symbolizes that someone must have been in an accident at that spot, and that they lost their life right there. But this cross means so much more to me than that. This cross puts so much into perspective for me every day.
And it’s not the perspective that you may be thinking. That I am so blessed to be alive or that that cross is not there representing my loved one. Actually, the person whom that cross is now remembering has become a loved one to me.
I don’t know who they are. I don’t have a name or any details about them. I’ve never asked anyone a question to even try and figure it out. Because I don’t need those details to know that they mattered. That they still matter. I feel it every time I drive by.
And I’ll tell you about the day that this became so relevant to me. The day I started speaking outload to this cross as I drove by. It’s the day this white cross became a white cross. Because before that, it was an old weathered, wooden cross. I was driving by the day that a man and a woman were pulled over there, replacing the old wooden cross with a fresh new white one.
I drove by and I addressed the person remembered by that cross. I said, “I wondered if these are your parents, or your siblings, or your kids, or your neighbors. I don’t know that answer, but I know you mattered to them. I know that they think of you and miss you. I know that they refuse to let you be forgotten. And I would guess that they mattered to you too. I’m going to think about them too now every day when I drive by”.
And now every day I say that “today, I’m going to think about the fact that you feel like a missing piece in someone’s puzzle. I’m going to remember that they are part of my puzzle. I’m going to assume that they have a good life, but that in all the joy and blessings they have, they still feel sorrow and grief. That those feelings inter-mingle every day.
I’m going to remember that the person in front of me at any given time, the 1 in 7 billion, may look happy. But they may also be carrying sorrow and grief. Or confusion or worry and pain. I’m going to try my hardest today to make sure that they feel like my 1 in 7 billion. For the moment I have them right there with me.
This is the perspective that this little white cross gives me every time I head to work and then back home again to my family.
I know that they matter, not because or how they died, but because they were born and lived in the first place. Because they were going somewhere that day. Because they had somewhere to be and something to do and someone to see. Because someone was waiting for them to get there. And because they never got there, there is a missing piece in someone’s puzzle and if I believe that I have a 7-billion-piece puzzle, then I have a missing piece too if I don’t remember that they matter.
Even if someone is no longer alive on this earth with us, they don’t have to be missing from our puzzle if we know where they have always belonged in our picture. We can keep them there. That’s their spot after all and no one else will fit there.
My mama is missing from this earth. But she is not missing from my mind or my heart. She still has her place in my puzzle. That will never change. Her spot is secure.
But it is my duty, and my privilege to remember now what she taught me... that Everyone Matters – and that is not just a phrase.
I challenge you to try and look at everyone you meet today, as the missing piece in your puzzle. The one you NEED to complete your puzzle. And most of all today, I hope that no matter what you are going through, that you’ll remember that no matter how insignificant you might think you are, out of 7 billion, you are the ONE.
The phrase is not “Almost everyone matters”. It’s everyone. Everyone matters, my mama said so. And she was right.
You matter friend, and I will meet you right back here next week.
Until then this is good-bye for now, but we will speak again soon.